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Legacy Potential of Monitor Farms to be Highlighted in Shetland

The potential of monitor farms to generate far-reaching legacies will be highlighted by former monitor farmer John Scott at the next meeting of the Shetland Monitor Farm on August 10th.

Mr Scott farms at Fearn near Tain and was Farmers Weekly Sheep Farmer of the Year in 2015. Fearn was a monitor farm from 2006-2009 and during that time the Scott family made significant changes to their farm business.

However, according to Mr Scott, the benefits his business has derived from the monitor farm experience go much further than that three-year period.

“It is now eight years since Fearn completed its three-year term as a Quality Meat Scotland Monitor Farm and something which has become very clear is the long-term ripple effect of what we learned from the process,” said Mr Scott.

“Certainly, the changes we introduced - many of them small with cumulative benefits – have continued to deliver improvements to our bottom line.

“However, a key long-term benefit was the discipline we learned during the process in terms of basing our decisions on data and bench-marking our performance against others. That has ensured that every part of our business is now regularly scrutinised to quickly identify any areas of underperformance,” he said.

Fearn extends to just over 600 hectares, two-thirds of which is grass, however the family run a total of 2,600 hectares between Easter Ross and Sutherland in a mixture of owned, contracted and tenanted farms.

At the start of the programme the farm was carrying 1,000 ewes and 120 cows. Now the business has 5,500 ewes, 1,500 hoggs and 250 breeding cows.

As well as invested in genetics, the Scott family have improved their grazing management, steadily improving the grass by reseeding, developing rotational grazing systems for both their sheep and cattle and setting up an outwintering system for the cows on stubble turnips.

Mr Scott believes the next few years will be challenging for livestock farmers and they will be forced to make changes to their businesses to improve efficiency and margins.

"Knowledge transfer is more important than ever in this scenario and the monitor farm programme is a real opportunity to access new and different techniques and ideas," he added.

The Shetland Monitor Farm meeting starts at Bigton Hall at 11am when the host farmers, Kirsty and Aimee Budge from Bigton farm, will give an update on their activities since the last meeting.

Following the discussion of paddock grazing at the previous meeting, Iain Eadie from Germinal Seeds will lead a discussion on grass varieties, types and attributes, grass seed mixtures, and reseeding methods and techniques.

The Shetland Monitor Farm is one of nine monitor farms that have been established across Scotland in a joint initiative by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds, with funding from the Scottish Government. The aim of the programme is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses.

The Shetland Monitor Farm meetings are open and free for all farmers and crofters to attend.  Attendees will also have an input into the topics covered, the speakers invited to meetings and visits to other enterprises and businesses.  Lunch will be provided and the meeting will finish at 3pm.

To book your attendance (and lunch!) please contact the project facilitator Graham Fraser, SAC Consulting Lerwick on 01595 693520 by Monday 7 August, or email frbslerwick@sac.co.uk

For more information about the monitor farm programme click here